Many years ago, I was driving my Honda CRX near Emory University in Atlanta.  Approaching the stoplight near Everybody’s Pizza, a solo piano intro with synth pads flowed out of my car radio like mist coming off the street after a summer rainstorm. And then a machine-like drum groove kicked in. I stopped my car. I stared at the radio.  Yeah, I remember exactly where I was when I first heard Bruce Hornsby’s “Every Little Kiss.” It was emotional. I felt the heartache of separation described in the song, but I also felt rising joy in his piano solos throughout the recording. I was trying to soak up every note, every word, looking for a rewind button on my dashboard. It was going by too fast. What was I listening to? Who was this guy!? 

To this day, I’m not sure where I was driving, but I know I never made it to my intended destination. Instead, I drove to the record store… yep, a store with records (for all of you under the age of 40), and bought my first Bruce Hornsby cassette (yes, music from a plastic container with tape inside).  I stayed up all night listening to every song on that album, over and over. I’d listen for a while, then go to my piano and try to mimic what I had just heard. THAT is how I wanted to play piano. THAT is how I wanted to write songs.

If you know Bruce Hornsby’s story about breaking into the music business, you know how so many well-meaning people tried to change his sound to adapt to the “marketplace.” In the end, it was a demo recorded HIS way that got him signed. Essentially a piano and a drum machine. Just like the beginning of “Every Little Kiss.” Bruce Hornsby listened to his gut, his instincts, and that’s what lifted his career.

A friend of mine once described Hornsby’s music as sunshine and rain. Yeah, that feels about right. Come to think of it, it was raining on the summer day I heard “Every Little Kiss” and with that first note, it felt like the sun broke through. Sure, it’s just a song, but a song can change your life. - james

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